[PHOTO: Andy Lyons]
There’s a lot on the line this week at the LPGA’s Toto Japan Classic, starting today at Seta Golf Course in Shiga. Only two opportunities remain for players to earn points necessary to play in the CME Group Tour Championship. Players gain entry into the Tour Championship field from November 17-20 via a season-long points race, with the top 60 and ties earning a spot at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida. The no-cut event has a $US7 million purse, the fourth-largest on tour.
With only two events left before the championship, players on the bubble have a lot to gain, or lose, in Japan.
The Race to the CME Globe is all about points, with winners of LPGA events earning 500 points. A second-place finish is worth 320 points, third gets 230 points, fourth place receives 180 points and on down the line. Majors are weighted 30 percent more than the rest of the schedule.
As Ariya Jutanugarn found out at the BMW Ladies Championship two weeks ago, a top-10 finish can change everything. Jutanugarn finished in seventh place and moved from 65th place on the points list to 58th. She won the Race to the CME Globe in both 2016 and 2018.
Beyond the former world No.1, other big names are lingering right around the coveted 60th-place mark. Anna Nordqvist and Stacy Lewis are in 56th and 57th place, respectively, though Lewis is not in the field in Japan. Outside the top 60 are more recent Solheim Cup team members Matilda Castren (65th) Brittany Altomare (67th), Angel Yin (74th) and Yealimi Noh (77th). Of these players, only Altomare is not in the field in Japan.
A fan favoyrite Maria Fassi [pictured, top] is also one top finish away from breaking into the top 60. She sits at 69th on the points list and is competing in Japan this week.
For players a bit farther down the CME points list, the pressure is just as high. The top 100 players on the list will retain their LPGA cards for next year, so if they’re able to stay within the top 100, they can avoid a trip to Q-School. Brittany Lincicome, former world No.1 Sung Hyun Park, tour-winner Amy Olson and Major champ Sophia Popov are all notable players currently outside the top 100. Though none of these players are in the field in Japan, the Pelican Women’s Championship in Florida from November 10-13 will be their last chance to score points before the end of the season.